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2024 Volunteer Spotlight

We are so thankful for our wonderful volunteers and Happily Furever After Rescue would not be able to operate without their support and dedication to helping animals in need. Each month we will feature a volunteer who has helped make an impact within our organization. Read to learn more and check back monthly to see who we feature next:


When they say rescue takes a village, they’re not wrong! Have you ever wondered about what goes on behind the scenes in the rescue world to get our animals? Thousands of dogs and cats are saved out of shelters each year and transported to different rescues throughout the country. Many of the animals we save come from a wonderful organization, Lancaster SPCA in South Carolina. We’ve been working with this shelter since the beginning to save and get our furry friends from SC to CT and everything is made possible thanks to one man: Marty Steele.

Marty and his wife, Mikayla, got involved with fostering and helping their local shelter over a decade ago. They eventually both joined the Lancaster SPCA board and Marty’s role as a transporter began. Marty volunteers his time and travels the nearly 750 miles to us from Lancaster, SC, and always has a smile on his face. After stopping by us in Connecticut, his trip continues up the coast, with Vermont often being his last destination. There are many months when he does the trip multiple times in order to continue saving animals.

Over the past two years, he has driven 100K+ miles using the SPCA transport van and has even used his own personal vehicle on occasion. He has been to North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Florida, Georgia, and all over his home state of South Carolina.   

So, with an operation as big as this, what does it exactly look like? Marty shares, “Transport generally starts around 6PM the night prior when we begin loading up all the animals at the shelter. I’ve traveled with as little as one dog and up to 50 cats! As you can imagine, it can get pretty stinky with puppies and kittens! Many stops are made along the way to clean throughout the trip.”

He continues to say, “My first stop along the route is usually the Virginia rest area to walk the fully vaccinated dogs and let them go to the bathroom. It’s just me so this could take a while depending on how many I have but it also helps to keep me awake. Coffee breaks help too but knowing I have precious cargo is the true driving (no pun intended) force of the whole operation. I never stop to sleep until all the dogs and cats are safe with their rescues and then I will find a hotel to crash at. I try to make the animals ride as short as possible.”

What Marty does is definitely not easy but what motivates him is thinking about all the animals, especially those that looked like they had no chance, and seeing how their lives have changed. In the words of Marty, “These are the wins!” He goes on to say, “While there are many, I have two that inspire me and always come to mind...Buddy Bones and Ferdinand. Both pups are now living it up in Arizona after enduring a prior history of abuse and neglect. They serve as a good reminder that sometimes on your worst days, you can find something to smile about.”


While Marty has done hundreds of transports yearly, one of the most special ones involved a freedom ride road trip from South Carolina to Arizona with his wife. Not only did Mikayla come, but they also brought along one of their dogs, an adopted German Shepherd named Onyx. Mikayla reveals that Marty is also known for taking wrong turns on the way home and ending up in beautiful places to explore or a stream to fish in. 


Marty is married to his high school sweetheart and the two have more animals than they care to count…ha! In the free time that he does have, you can find Marty fishing or hiking somewhere looking for a good trout stream. 


Danielle Varney and Annie Ascher began fostering in October 2023 when we posted an urgent plea online for a medical foster after a pair of kittens were diagnosed with ringworm, which happens to be contagious to both other animals and people. Danielle, who works in the medical field, didn’t hesitate for a moment to step in immediately and foster this brother & sister duo, despite the long and complex course of treatment. To date, they have fostered six cats/kittens with HFAR and 11 others from another animal rescue organization over the past year and a half.


Fostering has not only been a rewarding journey for Danielle and Annie but also for their three teenage sons. Danielle shares, “Fostering allows us the opportunity to save lives while being rewarded with fuzzy cuddles. Our kids like the idea that they are helping animals that don't otherwise have a home. Also, our friends are always jealous and love to come and visit, so fostering equals being popular! Jaclyn has been super supportive and supplies us with all we need to be great fosters.”


Danielle and Annie are hoping to eventually adopt one of their fosters and are looking to also expand to dog fostering. “Fostering is a great way to enjoy these furry friends without making a commitment. Then if you find your furry soulmate, you get first dibs! Be ready for a few “foster fails,” but do it because it helps keep them off the streets and alive.”

Danielle and Annie live in Bethel with their three boys and have rescue pets of their own: a dog named Tali and a cat called Louisie. They enjoy finding fun things to do with their kids and having one-sided conversations with their pets.

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